Home, for now, in Minnesota


This Thanksgiving Sara Avendano, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was facing deportation, had something to be thankful for. Avendano had just received a last-minute reprieve from the Department of Homeland Security. She was granted a humanitarian parole that will allow her to stay in the U.S. for one more year.

“We made a strong case for her to stay in the US,” said her lawyer Susana DeLeon.

The mother of six U.S. citizen children, Avendano has lived in the United States for 16 years and is married to an El Savadoran immigrant who is on Temporary Protected Status, exacerbating the family’s instability. DeLeon explains that, under current immigration policies, Avendano has exhausted all avenues to stay legally in the United States and the humanitarian parole was her only recourse. Because her husband Nixon is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident (although he is legally in the country), she cannot file for U.S. residency through marriage. Neither can she file for residency through her children because a child must be at least 21 to petition for residency for a parent. Their oldest child is seventeen, while the youngest is only a year old.

In a telephone interview with the Daily Planet, Avendano says that she knows her battle to stay legally in Minnesota is far from over.

“I want to keep fighting to see if I can stay with my family without worrying about deportation,” she said. She is afraid to think what would happen to her children if she has to leave them. She is mostly concerned about her six-year-old autistic son, who is very dependent on her. When Avendano was briefly deported in 2007, she says her son did not take her absence well. 

“He would run into walls, refuse to talk and eat … ,” she said.”It would be tragic if my son, my children, had to separated from me again.” 

Avendano’s daughter, fourteen-year-old Jennifer, teared up as she described the fear of losing her mother. “Its been a roller-coaster of emotions. I know that my family is not unique. What is happening to us is happening to many families. Our family is just an example.”

Short of an immigration policy that offers amnesty to immigrants like Avendano, her only option is to begin the process of refiling an extension for a humanitarian parole when the current one expires in a year’s time. At a time of economic uncertainty in the United States, amnesty is a tough sell to make to anti-immigration advocates. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to introduce its first immigration bill early next year.